How iron deficiency affected history Kievan and Moscow Rus
Despite the fact that the “Iron Age” for humanity began a thousand years before our era, Russia, and then Russia, up to the XVIII century, experienced an acute shortage of metal.
Modern man lives in the world of metal, diverse metal surrounds him everywhere - both at work and in everyday life. It is difficult to imagine that once everything was completely wrong - any metal was in short supply, for its production required the most complex and time-consuming technologies.
Birch bog marsh iron
Modern iron is produced from ore mined, as a rule, at depths from 200 to 600 meters — such are, for example, the occurrence levels of the Kursk Magnetic Anomaly ore, the world's largest iron ore basin. The fuel for modern metallurgy is coal, the average depth of the mines of the largest Kuznetsk coal basin in Russia is about 200 meters.
The first mine with a depth of 200 meters appeared in Russia only at the beginning of the XIX century, at the Zmeinogorsky mine of Altai, and even then for the extraction of silver and gold - that is, where the volume of ore raised from the depths is relatively small.
In short, the rich reserves of high-quality iron ore on the East European Plain for its inhabitants throughout the Middle Ages remained inaccessible.
In Kiev, and then in Moscow Rus, until the very end of the 17th century, “lake” and “marsh” ores located on the surface served as raw material for iron production. In science, this is called "brown iron from organic origin" or "limonite." If in deep ores, for example, the already mentioned Kursk magnetic anomaly, iron is of the order of 70%, then the “brown iron” contains it in half.
Limonite Photo: Sevastopol Stone Museum
Unlike deep ores, whose deposits are usually huge, amounting to millions of tons, very small deposits of "swamp" ores are scattered throughout the country, representing, in fact, ore placers of insignificant volumes. You can literally extract such ore with a shovel, only by removing a thin layer of swamp vegetation. Therefore, such ore is sometimes also called "sod" or "meadow".
However, in addition to the ease of extraction of iron-poor "swamp ores" there is another advantage - the metal is smelted from them already at 400 degrees Celsius, and with 700 – 800 you can get acceptable quality iron. That is, to establish such a production can be handicraft in simple furnaces.
In addition, "swamp" ores are common in forest areas, and before the beginning of the XIX century, for the manufacture of iron was used not coal, but charcoal. All forge production in the past also worked exclusively on such coal.
But charcoal also required certain "technical parameters" - suitable for smelting iron is coal from fairly rare and slowly growing hardwood (oak, hornbeam, beech); coal from coniferous species (pine, spruce) or soft-leaved (aspen, alder) will be unsuitable for high-quality smelting.
Fortunately, convenient for the primitive metallurgical production of charcoal is obtained from the common birch throughout Russia. Therefore, until the end of the 17th century, almost all the iron in our country was obtained from swamp ore and using birch coal.
Such production remained, in fact, rural. All summer, the marsh ore was dug in small excavations near forest marshes, and in the fall it was “dried” by burning on fires. At the same time, wood was harvested — it was burned out in turf-covered pits for coal, this process was laborious and lengthy, up to one month. Already in winter, over the snow, prepared ore and charcoal were transported on sleds to places of smelting.
In the primitive "domnitsah" received battered iron. Usually these were disposable “mountains”, clay-fortified pits or stone hearths, where a small amount of ore (up to several tens of kilograms) was mixed with charcoal.
Melting iron in the domnitsa. Photo: Historic Jamestowne
The resulting red-hot “crista” - a loose iron mass filled with slag, was forged with hammers to seal and remove impurities. The iron obtained in this way was already suitable for the manufacture of simple metal products.
Such very small handicrafts were distributed throughout Russia. For example, during the excavations of Old Ryazan in the layers of the beginning of the XIII century, in many excavated dwellings of the townspeople found traces of home cooking of iron - it was actually cooked in pots, in ordinary furnaces.
However, on the eve of the Mongol invasion in Russia, there were already large enough for the era of the iron production. The largest of the “domnits” discovered by archaeologists was located in the Raikovetsky site of ancient settlement (now the territory of the Zhytomyr region of Ukraine), far from residential buildings and reaching two meters in diameter. Larger melting furnaces in Russia will start to be made only in the 17th century.
At the end of the history of Kievan Rus, entire areas specialized in the production of iron had already appeared. In the south of the present Kursk region, the city of Rims destroyed by the Polovtsi was located, during the excavations of which, already in the twentieth century, a vast area was discovered with remains of many domnits, slag heaps and shrimps.
In the XIII century in the north of Russia (the territory of the present Vologda region) on the lands controlled by the Novgorod Republic the city of Ustyug-Zhelezny arose, another version of the name was Ustyuzhna Zheleznopolskaya. The name of the city comes from the "Iron Field", the name of the area rich in marsh ores. For several centuries it was one of the centers of iron production in the north of Eastern Europe.
In general, during the XIII – XIV centuries, it was the Novgorod lands that were the main centers of iron ore in Russia. From the regions of Ustyuzhna, Yama, Koporye, Oreshka, the “marsh iron” mined by the peasants came to the Novgorod masters, and was also distributed by merchants throughout Russia.
Nevertheless, the Novgorod Republic had to buy its entire iron from Germany and Sweden from the Hansa merchants throughout its history. They bought German iron wire, needles, and just iron “in the pair” (Novgorod medieval measure of volume).
Periodically, during political aggravations with Novgorod, the Livonian Order and the Hansa trade union simply stopped selling metals to Novgorod. For example, the decision taken by the Hanseatic 12 February 1422 of the year “to stop the sale of copper, tin and other metals from which it is made weapon».
While in Russia, before the development of deposits in the far Ural, the main source of iron was scanty “marshland” ores, in Western Europe the sources of metal were rich deposits in the mountains in the southeast and in the center of the German lands in Bohemia, Saxony, Hesse, Harz. For this era, the mass mining of metal ores by the mining method began here already in the XIII century.
Engraving from the book “De re metallica” by George Agricola, 1556 year
By the beginning of the 16th century, the number of people employed in the mining industry in the territory of present-day Germany reached 100 thousand people - approximately an order of magnitude more than the iron ore mining operations in Russia did then. If by that time Germany was literally covered with mines, where all metals known to humanity were mined, from iron to silver, gold, tin and copper, then the emerging centralized Moscow state had to be content with the poor “swamp” ores based on it was impossible to start large-scale industrial production.
In addition, the "marsh" ore gave only low-grade iron, and non-ferrous metals in the territory of Russia until the XVIII century was practically absent. Small sources of copper were found at the very end of the 15th century in the Olonets region and in the Pechora region, but they could not saturate the domestic market.
Novgorod knew about the sources of silver in the Urals at the time of Kievan Rus. The first special expedition of “miners” in search of silver ores in the eastern foothills of the Urals was sent by Ivan III in 1491. Silver was not found then, but copper was found on the Tsilma River (the territory of the modern Komi Republic).
However, if in Germany, rich iron, silver and copper ores were actually located close to large cities, then the same Russian copper at Tsilma was separated from Russia by almost 1,500 kilometers - for the transport technologies of that time it is six months' journey, and even more with cargo.
It was this lack of a metallurgical base that predetermined the economic and technological backwardness of Russia from Europe. Until the 18th century, our country had to buy much of the iron and most of the non-ferrous metals in the West.
It is not by chance that the Voskresenskaya Chronicle in the record under 1479 for the first time, mentioning roofing iron for the first time, calls it "German." The import of iron and non-ferrous metals from Europe through Novgorod, after the city was joined to Moscow, even increased - the new centralized state needed more metals, and its own rich sources did not yet exist.
The deficit and, accordingly, the cost of the metal were such that over the course of the 15th – 17th centuries a significant part of the “local army” - the noble equestrian militia, the striking force of the Russian army - wore cloth “tegilya”, quilted with hemp and filled with horsehair, instead of expensive steel armor . While in the west of Europe, with its rich mountain mines, from the XV century, steel armor has already supplanted non-metallic versions of protective weapons.
In the XVI century, Ustyuzhna Zheleznopolskaya, a large city by the standards of that time with a population of about six thousand people, remained the largest center of metalworking and weapons business in Moscow Russia. At that time 77 owners of large forges lived in Ustyuzhna, while in Tula, another center of metal and weapons production, they were two times smaller.
In addition to Ustyuzhna and Tula, Russian iron in the 16th century was produced in Tikhvin, in the east of the modern Leningrad Region, and in Karelia in Olonets and Zaonezhie. Here, local peasants smelted iron from marsh ore in primitive pits called “mines,” and the Tikhvin blacksmiths, famous throughout Russia, forged the rod, the iron bands that were traded all over the country.
However, its iron chronically lacked. By the end of the XVI century, it was bought mainly in Sweden, through the representative offices of the Swedish merchants in Novgorod. Through Novgorod, the bulk of lead, tin and copper, without which neither craft nor weapon production could have functioned, then got into Russia.
Livonian War, Boris Horikov, 1836 Year
All metals - above all, iron and copper - were then strategic goods necessary for military affairs. The Western rivals of Russia, Poland and Sweden, taking advantage of Russia's dependence on the supply of metals from Europe, periodically, in order to put political pressure and military easing Moscow, blocked their imports to our country. Therefore, the “Livonian War” begun by Ivan the Terrible was precisely the struggle for free access to the trade routes of the Baltic Sea, so that Russia could export its furs to the West and freely buy metals that were not enough for it.
When in the 1553 year, a trading ship from Britain first appeared at the mouth of the Northern Dvina, the government of Ivan the Terrible was primarily interested in the possibility of the British merchants to supply weapons, iron and other metals bypassing the former trade routes in the Baltic Sea controlled by Sweden and Poland. Already in the 70 of the 16th century, the English merchants of the Moscow Company began to actively sell lead, tin, copper and various weapons to Russia. For example, only in 1576 year for Tsar Ivan the Terrible in England they bought copper for 1082 rubles.
In May 1584, the son of Grozny, Tsar Fyodor Ioannovich, specifically sent a letter to Queen Elizabeth of England asking for the supply of metals, copper, tin and lead, “which comes in handy to the army”. Already in 1604, English and Dutch ships delivered various metals for the sum of 16 088 rubles to Arkhangelsk. Throughout the 17th century, metals constituted a significant part of European goods purchased through Arkhangelsk.
Prices for imported iron and gold
During the first king of the Romanov dynasty, our country actively bought non-ferrous metals and high-quality gun steel, as well as ready-made guns and gun barrels from European merchants. In 1633 – 34, when Russia waged a difficult and unsuccessful war with Poland, due to the lack of its own metals, a significant amount of metal and weapons had to be bought in Holland. So, in 1633, the Dutch merchant Elias Trip bought 12 bronze cannons, 3 thousands of “saber strips” (blanks for sabers) and 15 thousands of poods of iron.
After the Russian army lost almost all the siege artillery due to the surrender of Smolensk in 1634, the next decade bought a large number of the latest model guns to compensate for these losses in Holland and German Lübeck. It is not by chance that in the 1667 year, monastic schismatics and the monastery were besieged by the Tsar's archers, the leader of the rebels, Archimandrite Nicanor, according to eyewitnesses, “walked around the towers incessantly, and sprinkled cannons and water, and told them: Mothers de mine golanochki, hope we have on you, you will defend us ... ”The cannons of the Solovetsky monastery were precisely the newest tools bought in Holland and then called“ golanachkas ”in Russia.
Prices for European metal were very high. If at the beginning of the XVII century one pound (16 kg) of Russian iron cost the manufacturer about 60 kopecks, then the cost of a pound of imported Swedish iron reached 1 ruble 30 kopecks. A pood of imported iron wire cost even more - from a ruble to three.
To understand how high the prices for the metal were, it is enough to point out that an ordinary horse was then estimated at 2 rubles, and it was worth to buy a slave from 3 to 5 rubles. That is, the man was worth a little more than 16 kilograms of iron wire.
Higher prices were for high-grade steel weapons. At the beginning of the 17th century, a saber of Swedish iron cost 5 – 7 rubles in Russia, and especially high-quality damask sabers from Persia were sold even more expensively, according to 40 and even 50 rubles per unit. Over the course of the 16th – 17th centuries, almost continuously fighting Russia quite massively purchased so-called saber lanes and sabers in the East and West. Such a “strip of bulatna” cost about 3 rubles, it is curious that they were brought into Moscow Russia from two opposite ends of the world - by the Dutch and Persian merchants.
Copper was purchased from English, Dutch, Danish and Swedish merchants. It was noticeably more expensive than iron and cost from 1,5 to 3 rubles per pound, and the roofing copper from which Orthodox churches made domes was even more expensive - up to 6 rubles per pound.
The most expensive of all metals was gold, which at that time everything was imported in Russia. Pud of imported gold by the beginning of the XVII century cost about 3300 rubles. Silver, also mainly imported in Russia at that time, was cheaper - approximately 450 rubles per pood.
Throughout the 17th century, copper, copper wire, boilers and copper basins, tin in bars and tin cups, and lead in bars were imported from Germany through the port of Arkhangelsk from Germany. Tin, lead, iron wire were also supplied by Dutch merchants.
The main source of high-quality iron for Russia at that time was Sweden. This country and now ranks first in Western Europe in terms of reserves of iron ore. Although the mining of ore was mastered here later than in Germany, but already in the 16th century, massive exports of Swedish metals began and for the next two centuries, Sweden firmly occupied the position of the main supplier of iron and copper on the European market.
Only in 1629, the royal treasury bought 25 thousands of pounds of high-quality iron from Sweden - that is, over a third of all the iron that appeared in Russia that year. Over the 17th century, over 90% of the value of all purchases of Russian merchants in Sweden were copper and iron, in some years this percentage was even higher - for example, in 1697, just before the start of the Northern War, 97% of all Russian money spent in Stockholm, went to buy iron and copper. In fact, Russia bought only metal from Sweden - primarily high-quality (as it was called in the Russian documents of those years, “rod” or “blackened”) iron.
It was a powerful metallurgical base that by the XVII century turned Sweden into the leading superpower of the Baltic region, making this country a powerful and difficult opponent of Russia during the future Northern War.
Start of industrial metallurgy in Russia
To overcome the constant shortage of metals, both in the XVI and in the XVII centuries, the tsarist government officially forbade repeatedly to export and sell iron, copper, tin, and lead outside Russia under the penalty of the death penalty. However, neither the harsh prohibitive measures, nor the artisanal “swamp” iron, nor the extremely expensive imports from Europe, saved Russia from a chronic shortage of metals. Therefore, immediately after the country recovered from the consequences of the “Time of Troubles”, the tsarist government attempted to set up its own metallurgical industry.
In 1632, Tsar Mikhail Fedorovich Dutch merchant Vinius was given a chartered diploma on the construction of an iron works near Tula. In this area, metallurgical production in the form of small handicraft has long existed, thanks to the availability of affordable and high-quality ore (“good ores” - as Russian documents of that time wrote). It was no longer “bog iron”, but deposits of high-quality iron ore located near the surface of the earth near the village of Didilovo, located near the surface of the earth.
Developed handicraft from the middle of the XVI century Didilovsky mines became the raw material base for the future plant of the Dutchman Vinius. Under the orders of the king, an entire volost in 347 of peasant souls was attributed to the plant as a labor force - they were obliged to serve the plant with ore mining, preparation and supply of charcoal. Both the "ascribed", that is, in fact, the serfs, and the civilian employees (the "eager people" - as they were called in the documents of those years) were engaged in direct work at the plant.
Andrey Denisovich Vinius, engraving by Cornelius Vishera, 1650 year
The company gave the first metal in 1637 year. The plant built by the Dutchman was no longer a cottage industry, but a real manufactory using machines that worked on water (as it was written in Russian documents - "mill") energy. A few years later, the Dutchman Vinius officially converted to Russian citizenship, accepted Orthodoxy, and was enlisted in the Moscow nobility.
Dutch merchant Filimon Akema and Dane from Hamburg Peter Marselis soon joined the metal business of Vinius. This merchant association, based on the European experience, built for the Russian tsar three more iron-making manufactories in the Tula region. For that time it was a whole industrial complex, it was called Gorodishchenskie Zavody.
Following the Gorodishchensky plants, Marcelis and Akema built four more iron manufactories on the River Skniga (a tributary of the Oka in the territory of the present Moscow and Tula regions), called Kashirsky factories. In addition to Russian masters, they were attended by invited experts from Germany, Sweden and France. The costs of creating these enterprises were estimated by contemporaries in a huge amount for those times - 25 thousand rubles.
By the middle of the 17th century, these eight manufactories that constituted the Gorodishchensky and Kashirsky "factories" became the main center of metallurgy in Russia. The tsarist government, delighted by these successes, tried to build a similar plant using water energy in Karelia for copper production. In 1670, the Novgorodian Semyon Gavrilov with craftsmen smelters was sent to Zaonezhie "to search for copper ores". In the same year, they built the first state-owned copper smelting plant in Foymogubsky Pogost.
However, the scarce reserves of Karelian copper did not allow the new enterprise to turn around, because of the large labor intensity of work and the associated significant costs of public funds, the plant was unprofitable at the end of 1674, and closed. An attempt to do without expensive imported copper failed - before the start of industrial production of this metal in the Urals, there were still a few decades.
Iron ore in Karelia was slightly better than copper ore, therefore, from 1681 to 1690, five water-based metallurgical factories were built here, collectively called the Olonets Factories. Since 1700, these plants began to specialize in orders for the military being built by Peter the Great. fleet in the Baltic.
Almost simultaneously in the south of Russia, under the current Lipetsk, in 1693, the first iron-smelting plant is being built using water energy. Here, as well as at Tula, high-quality iron ore came to the surface. The metal of the Lipetsk plant was supplied to Voronezh shipyards, where Peter I built a fleet for the Azov campaigns.
In 1703 – 1705, the metallurgical production in this area was expanded, so Lipsky Iron Plants appeared. They not only gave birth to the modern city of Lipetsk, but also became the main metallurgical base for the Russian fleet in the Sea of Azov, and in the first years of the war with Sweden they gave half of the metal needed by Russia for military production.
However, neither “swamp” ores, nor very rare surface iron ore deposits on the East European Plain could provide sufficient metal production. On the eve of the Northern War with Sweden, which was the largest iron producer in Europe at that time, Russia needed its own metallurgical base capable of overcoming the chronic shortage of metals.
The nearest region, where technologies of that time allowed to extract a mass of ore, sufficient for industrial production, was the Urals. They knew about its metal reserves in the Middle Ages, when the Novgorod ushkuyniki discovered on its slopes "Chudskie Mine", numerous traces of ancient mining.